As some of you may know, WriteOnCon (an online kidlit writer’s conference) is currently in session. Agents, editors, and published authors are congregating to debate in forums, discuss in live chats, and instruct in blog posts. Thousands of aspiring writers are attending this virtual event that allows them to get a glimpse into the minds of the people who make this industry tick. For someone like me, WriteOnCon is made of–if I may coin a phrase–fabu-freaking awesomesauce.
It is also a very refined kind of torture.
Yes, you read that right. Attending WriteOnCon is a weird, blissful pain that makes me occasionally seize up, or yelp and cover my face with my hands, or groan in frustration. Pity the poor person who has to be seen with me in public when I do this (that would be Azalea, who made the best of it by laughing at me while we were sitting in our favorite writing coffee-shop the other day). The fact of the matter is that seeing all of this awesome stuff is about as painful as it is wonderful. But I can’t stop attending WOC events.
Why? Because to paraphrase the fictional character who is often mistaken for my namesake, I want to be where those people are.
I’m a writer. I’ve known this about myself since I was a small child. And if I may share one weird (and perhaps embarrassing) secret with you, I have always known that I was going to write and publish a book. I don’t know how to explain this well, because it seems like no matter how I phrase it I’m going to come off sounding like I’m just cocky–and I’m not. Please, please don’t get me wrong. This is not self-confidence (although I do have some of that), and it isn’t arrogance either (at least, I hope it isn’t). The best word I can think of to describe it is “fate”: I feel like I’m fated to write and publish a book. I cannot stress enough that this feeling/knowledge/whatever isn’t a positive or a negative: it’s simply a fact of my everyday existence in the same way that gravity is a fact of my everyday existence. As with gravity, I rarely even think about it most of the time because it’s just there. Inevitable and ever-present. (And dear God, isn’t it lucky that I happen to like writing? What if I’d been fated to do something I didn’t want to do?)
But if you’re like me, every once in a while, you have these moments where you suddenly go, “Oh my God. Gravity. Holy crap. We’re on this little ball of rock spinning through space, and the only thing holding us here is this powerful, invisible force. Amazing. Terrifying. Awesome.”
That’s kind of how I feel about the gravitational pull leading me towards the publishing world, and WriteOnCon is one of those moments where I become aware of it. As I’ve mentioned, it’s not a comfortable experience because it comes with this frisson of electric excitement and anxiety. Reading the posts and watching the chats and surfing the forums, there’s this physical sensation of wanting to GET UP AND GO. I’m infused with energy and passion and excitement at the idea of diving into the publishing process, of querying/selling a book, or of interning with an agent or editor. I feel so ready to dive into this world that I’ve been researching for the past eight years (no joke).
But at the moment, I’m just a writer with an unfinished manuscript, so that energy has nowhere to go. It’s not the calm, steady, focused sort of energy I need for writing. Hence why it manifests in random twitches and squeaks while sitting in a coffee-shop:
Me: *under my breath as my hands fly to my face* Oh my God.
Azalea: *raises her eyebrows* You are ridiculous.
Azalea: What was that?
Me: Um. A really good query letter. It was about zombies and steampunk in 19th-centry Philadelphia, and the author was talking about how it would probably appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare and…*continues to prattle on with anxious wistfulness*
It’s funny because I’m normally good at being patient, yet somehow this is so much harder than anything I’ve ever had to be patient about. College applications were downright relaxing by comparison. In the long run, though, I think this impatience is going to serve me well because it proves to me that I really do belong with all these crazy people who love telling stories for kids and teens (and helping other people tell those stories).
And regardless of fate, I’m really happy about that.